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Brain initiative

US Congress Passes Budget Bill: NIH BRAIN Initiative Receives $60M in Additional Funds for Fiscal Year 2021

John Ngai, Ph.D. Director of the NIH BRAIN Initiative recently shared the following news:
The recently authorized Omnibus Appropriations Bill for fiscal year 2021 provides $42.9 billion for NIH, an increase of $1.25 billion (or 1.5%) above fiscal year 2020. This appropriation includes $560 million for the NIH BRAIN Initiative, a $60 million increase over last year’s $500 million appropriation. We are deeply grateful for Congress’s strong and continuing support of our mission.

The spending bill includes $404 million of appropriated funds authorized in the 21st Century Cures Act. The Cures Act, signed into law in December 2016, allocates funding to NIH each year through 2026, for a total of $4.8 billion across all projects described in the Act. The BRAIN Initiative was one of four highly innovative scientific initiatives designated to receive multi-year funding through the Innovation Fund of the Cures Act, reflecting enthusiasm for the Initiative and its goals. This funding must be appropriated each year by Congress.

The $560 million appropriation for the NIH BRAIN Initiative includes $100 million in Cures Act funds. This legislation reflects strong bipartisan Congressional support for biomedical research, and will provide NIH with the resources needed to continue to work towards the goals in BRAIN’s strategic plan, which was initially outlined by the BRAIN 2025 report and recently updated and enhanced through the BRAIN 2.0 neuroscience and neuroethics reports. Importantly, this generous allocation for 2021 will accelerate the launch of two transformative projects outlined in those reports that “stand out in for their importance to human health and technical viability,” specifically: $40 million for the Human Brain Cell Atlas and $20 million for the Armamentarium for Brain Cell Access. Collectively, this funding will help accelerate BRAIN’s mission to develop and apply innovative tools and neurotechnologies, as well as to support researchers as they seek new ways to treat, cure, and ultimately prevent brain disorders.

In addition to the increased funds for the BRAIN Initiative, the Omnibus Bill:

The spending bill will fund the government until the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, 2021.

The Canadian Brain Strategy featured in the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health Annual Report

The Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health Annual Report includes a feature on Judy Illes and her work with the Canadian Brain Research Strategy team

When it comes to studying the brain, it’s essential to consider the many ethical questions that often arise. Neuroethics Canada is a research group that’s part of the DMCBH and led by Dr. Judy Illes. This year, her team has worked on several projects, including the exciting launch of the Canadian Brain Research Strategy with a $1.5 million CIHR grant.

Dr. Illes is co-leading the strategy with Professor Yves de Koninck and early career researcher Dr. Caroline Menard at the University of Laval. It already involves more than 30 teams from across the country. Canada’s participation is part of a larger International Brain Initiative, which brings together the world’s major brain research projects, all aimed at better understanding the human brain and discovering new treatments to address neurological and psychiatric disorders.

See the DMCBH Annual report here, and read the full feature on page 14

Julie Payette, Rémi Quirion

Dr. Judy Illes asks the Governor General a question on science and interdisciplinarity in Canada

At the recent GGconversations episode (September 24, 2020), Her Excellency the Right Honourable Governor General Julie Payette and Quebec’s Chief Scientist, Dr. Rémi Quirion, take a live question from Dr. Judy Illes on team science and discuss the importance of interdisciplinarity.

Are we doing enough, team science, to leverage Canada’s strength and highlight them to the world? asked Dr. Illes.

Click the link below to view the full episode (Dr. Illes’ question at 7 minutes):

covid-19 cdc

Judy Illes discusses back to school in COVID-19 times

“It is like sitting on a cliff,” says Dr. Judy Illes, Canada Research Chair in neuroethics at the University of British Columbia. “For parents, it revolves around the central question: Am I doing the right thing? What is the right thing for you when the ground is a long way down or shifting under you constantly?” Read the full article in the National Post: ‘It is like sitting on a cliff’: September, schools and pre-traumatic stress disorder in COVID times

$1.5 million to develop a Canadian brain research strategy

A pan-Canadian team of researchers has secured a $1.5 million grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to develop a strategy to position the advancement of knowledge about the brain as a national research priority and support the creation of the Canadian Brain Research Strategy Network. This network will coordinate Canada’s participation in the International Brain Initiative, which brings together the world’s major brain research projects.

Neurological disorders are the leading cause of disability and the second leading cause of death worldwide. The burden of neurological disorders has substantially increased over the last 25 years with the aging of the Canadian population. The coordinated efforts of brain researchers from across Canada through the Canadian Brain Research Strategy Network offers an unprecedented chance to reduce this burden and to improve the quality of life of Canadians.

The Canadian Brain Research Strategy Network is headed up by Dr. Yves De Koninck, a professor with Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine and director of the CERVO Brain Research Centre, and Dr. Judy Illes, a professor at the University of British Columbia and director of Neuroethics Canada. The heads of 31 teams from Canada’s leading neuroscience institutes and research centres will join with them in developing the strategy. The coalition Neurological Health Charities Canada will bring the voice of Canadians affected by brain conditions to strategy development.

Several issues convinced the researchers of the urgency of developing a coordinated vision of brain research. “The first was the slow progress in the fight against brain disease,” explains De Koninck. “We’re still not able to cure or effectively treat disorders or illnesses like autism, Alzheimer’s, addiction, or depression. We believe that concerted action by neuroscience researchers will be a game-changer, just like it was for cardiovascular disease, where mortality rates have dropped 75% compared to 60 years ago.”

Another issue was the human and economic cost of brain disease. “In the course of their lives, one Canadian in three will be diagnosed with a brain disease or experience a brain injury. This often has a devastating impact on their quality of life and that of their families,” adds Deanna Groetzinger, manager of Neurological Health Charities Canada (NHCC), a coalition of organizations that represent people with brain diseases, disorders and injuries in Canada. “A 2016 study showed that neurological illnesses and mental health problems generated annual costs to the Canadian economy of some $61 billion.  In addition, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on stress and anxiety, particularly among health care workers and people living with brain conditions, shows just how important mental health is to our society.”

The Canadian Brain Research Strategy will coordinate Canada’s involvement in the International Brain Initiative. Like the Human Genome Project, which brought the entire scientific community together between 1988 and 2003 around the sequencing of the human genome, the International Brain Initiative will see thousands of scientists working toward a shared objective: understanding how the brain works and improving the treatments available to those suffering from brain-related illnesses. “Key aspects of the Canadian Brain Research Strategy in this regard are the ethical, legal, societal and cross-cultural importance of discoveries about the brain and their meaningful translation into practice” notes Illes. “The neuroethical piece has already grounded the formulation and execution of the Strategy.”

“Canada’s participation will focus on the brain’s plasticity, which underpins our ability to learn, remember, and adapt,” says De Koninck. “This should give us greater insight into how these processes can be disrupted and lead to brain disorders and pathologies. We also hope our collaborative, concerted approach to research will attract note. We want the Canadian way to set an example for other countries.”